Last updated: Dec 23, 2020

What is WordPress Site Health?

You may have noticed that WordPress now includes a tool called “Site Health.” It was introduced as a way to provide information about security and performance issues a website may be experiencing. It alerts the site owner to problems that may have gone otherwise undetected. For that reason alone, it’s a very welcome addition to the WordPress platform and should help improve its overall security.

The status widget that lives on the WordPress dashboard (see image below,) is the first place you’re likely to notice the Site Health tool. This provides a snapshot of your site’s overall health and gives your site a health rating. Clicking the link in the widget will take you to the full Site Health tool. It also can be found in the WordPress admin menu under “Tools,” by clicking “Site Health.”

Site Health Status widget found on the WordPress dashboard
The Site Health Status widget found on the WordPress dashboard

Site Health scores

WordPress Site Health offers users a chance to understand and fix issues that they may not have been aware of. Site Health currently tests 22 different aspects of a website, such as out of date plugins, unused themes, PHP issues and more. These aspects are split into 3 categories; performance, security and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Each test gives a score of “good” (passed tests), “recommended” (changes are recommended but not necessary), or “critical” (significant issues that you should fix as soon as possible).

At the top of the page, you’ll also see a colored circle that gives you a visual representation of how healthy your site is. The ideal state is green, and means that’s there are none (or very few) issues with the site. Yellow is more common, and means there are some issues, but none that are severe. Red is a bit more serious and means there are some issues that may need to be resolved soon to avoid larger problems.

Site health status window
Site Health categorizes potential issues and gives your site an overall score

Should I be worried if I’m not in the green?

Site health utilizes a color-based rating system. Though we’re conditioned to see green as the ideal in perfect circumstances, the answer is no. A score of yellow can be fine for some websites. Circumstances can be different for every site. Varying site setups, server configurations and custom code can trigger an alert, though in reality the risk may be minimal.

As with anything in life, take these ratings with a grain of salt. There is no universal agreement about what makes a site perfectly healthy. This is something that should be considered subjective and different for each site. So don’t panic if your site isn’t in the green. As long as you’re not in the red, you’re more than likely in good shape.

Should I be worried if I have critical items?

Critical items don’t necessarily mean that you’re in serious trouble, so don’t sound the alarm just yet. An out of date plugin does not necessarily pose a security risk. Running a slightly older version of PHP does not mean your site has malware. Could there be an increased risk? Yes. Should these issues be addressed sooner than later?  Yes of course, but typically these issues aren’t Earth-shattering and can be addressed fairly quickly. Simply take a deep breath and contact your web developer for more information on your specific situation.

Site Health offers other valuable information too

The WordPress Site Health tool also can provide detailed information about your website and host. This can be very useful for developers and technical support. For example, you can find which PHP version your site is using, or how much memory is allocated for media uploads. Simply click the “info” tab, next to the “status” tab. Then, copy your site information to the clipboard and paste it into an email or chat window to send it along to a developer or support person.

Site Health also makes it easy to see other useful information about your site

All in all, Site Health is a welcome addition to WordPress

Ultimately, the benefits of using Site Health outweigh the few possible confusions it may create. Providing useful website health information to its users is a great move for the WordPress community and should improve the overall security of the WordPress platform.

As they say, ‘knowledge is power’ and Site Health is helping to put that power in the hands of its users. So be sure to put that knowledge to good use. Install those plugin updates, and reach out to your web developer with any questions. Try not to stress too much about achieving that perfect rating.